Application workload consolidation is a top priority for many IT executives. And it is for good reason. Application workload consolidation presents the opportunity for organizations to lower operational costs, optimize business processes, increase productivity, and ultimately remain competitive. In the case of a global mining company with SAP workloads hosted in three different locations (two hosting vendors and an on-premise location), consolidating its SAP workloads was a necessary step towards improving the performance and availability of its mission critical SAP application.
The Cloud Roadmap
For the global mining company, the increased operational costs and resources to manage were not the only challenges that came with hosting its SAP workloads in three locations. For starters, a majority of the company’s systems were managed by one hosting vendor with outdated hardware and most of its operating systems and databases at end of support. With this primary hosting vendor, the company faced production downtime and unplanned system outages periodically. The company was also limited by its primary hosting vendor’s inability to keep up with OS and application patching (as a result of the hardware limitation). In addition, the customer had to endure the long duration of this vendor’s system refresh process (took several days to a week to accomplish) which further hindered their productivity.
With a vision to revolutionize mining for a sustainable future for people and communities, the company had a very clear roadmap initiated in 2019 to modernize its IT infrastructure and consolidate critical SAP workloads from three different data centers to public cloud by 2020. Another driver for the migration was the hosting data center exit deadline (end of 2020). By consolidating its critical SAP workloads to the cloud, the company would increase flexibility and scalability without prolonged service interruptions to the business, reduce software licensing and maintenance costs, lower operational costs, and improv the performance of its SAP systems. To realize these benefits, however, it was imperative that the company selected the right cloud platform for its SAP workloads and an experienced partner to execute the migration.
Selecting the Ideal Cloud Service Provider
The company decided to leverage its partnership with Microsoft for its SAP cloud transformation initiative. With so much at stake for the migration to Microsoft Azure, the mining company needed a trusted partner to guide them through the process. Microsoft recommended their longtime SAP on Azure partner, Wharfedale Technologies, to assist with this digital transformation project. Having completed many Azure migrations in the past, Wharfedale had a clear roadmap and a refined approach to streamline this critical technology initiative.
Before awarding Wharfedale the project, the mining company evaluated Wharfedale and several other vendors. Wharfedale was ultimately selected over the other vendors because the company felt that Wharfedale had the most experience on Azure and a great team of experts with the track record of completing many successful SAP migrations to Azure along with SAP Basis and Infrastructure Managed services. Wharfedale also proved to be the most cost-effective option due to Wharfedale’s Zero Dollar Down Subscription Model. The Zero Dollar Down Subscription Model is a bundled package that includes Wharfedale’s SAP cloud migration offering and managed services. With it, the global mining company could seamlessly migrate its SAP systems to Azure with no upfront costs.
Wharfedale’s experience coupled with the technical and business value of the Zero Dollar Down Subscription Model heavily influenced the mining company’s decision. The company was confident that Wharfedale would be the right partner to guide them through the migration challenges that would come with consolidating its SAP workloads from three different hosting locations. The mining company was also confident in Wharfedale’s ability to do it with minimal business disruption.
Bumps on the Road
Wharfedale used its 74 factor SAP Transformation Methodology to help the company facilitate a seamless migration of its SAP landscape to Azure. As with all migrations, Wharfedale’s team ran into some challenges along the way. The original proposed migration approach was AS IS migration using Azure Site Recovery (ASR) tool to facilitate data replication. It was approved initially; however, the hosting vendor did not allow installation of ASR agent on the servers to be migrated. This stoppage cost the project team time and resources for the work that had already been taken place. Wharfedale and Microsoft worked together with the customer to overcome this obstacle and identify other methods to migrate under such restriction.
With years of experience in helping customers move to cloud, Wharfedale has developed proven migration methodology and expertise to overcome challenges such as limited access to the servers that were still managed by the existing hosting vendor. Four migration approaches were developed by senior OS/DB migration experts to replicate data from the servers on different OS/DB environments such as Linux/DB2, Windows/SQL, and Linux/SAP HANA. Operating system and database upgrades were also performed to ensure supportability in Azure.
Another challenge was to secure the optimal amount of bandwidth needed to ensure a minimal downtime migration. Organizations migrating applications to the cloud often underestimate the bandwidth needed to facilitate a seamless cloud migration and this was also the case with this customer.
To minimize migration downtime, Wharfedale conducted two mock runs in which it performed process optimization, performance tuning, and data archival. During the final mock run Wharfedale migrated some non-transactional production systems ahead to reduce overhead during production cutover. Through these measures, Wharfedale was able to migrate over 80 servers to Azure under 48 hours of downtime.
Realizing the Benefits of SAP on Azure
Per the mining company’s modernization initiative, the objective was to consolidate the company’s SAP workloads - running in three different locations - into the public cloud. Microsoft Azure was the company’s public cloud platform of choice and Wharfedale Technologies was tasked with executing the migration. Despite the unique challenges that rose up during the project, Wharfedale was able to migrate 80 servers to Azure with minimal disturbance to the mining company’s business. With the company’s SAP workloads consolidated in Azure, they realized the following benefits:
- Improved performance (Up to 48% improvement in response time for Production)
- Azure guaranteed 99.9% uptime.
- Server provisioning within hours to help support business growth.
- Systems Refreshes timeline reduced from one week to one day using Azure Storage Snapshot technology and automation using Microsoft PowerShell and SAP scripts.
- Increased High Availability for Critical SAP Landscapes.
- Reduced unplanned downtime significantly.
- Utilized Microsoft Azure Hybrid Usage Benefit (HUB) and reduced the licensing cost for their SAP landscape.
- SAP on Azure Cloud Dashboard. One of the unique features of Wharfedale’s Managed services is the Interactive live dashboard for monitoring your SAP landscape in terms of cost, performance, and user experience. The dashboard includes Interactive charts and filters provide an easy way to measure business impact, diagnose issues and make decisions swiftly.
“A successful SAP cloud migration requires strategic planning and an approach that enables an organization to leap past obstacles when they arise”, said Mahesh Reddy, CTO of Wharfedale Technologies. “The expertise of our team combined with our best practice methodologies allowed us to successfully migrate the SAP DB2 workloads to Azure with minimal interruption to business, allowing the customer to gain the efficiencies of running SAP in Azure.”
As a company with ambitions of revolutionizing its industry, the global mining company understood it could only go as far as its IT infrastructure allowed. Consolidating its SAP workloads on Azure was the first step towards increasing the company’s capacity for growth. With Azure’s best-in-class cloud infrastructure and security and ongoing support from Wharfedale Technologies, the company has established the foundation it needs to operate with greater efficiency, availability, and flexibility going forward.